A Split Decision For A State Championship Game Spot

by Joe Pasquini
The two local teams playing for a spot in a state championship game on Saturday, had the same kind of games.
Both teams jumped out to a good size lead and led most of the way.   In each case, the opponent made the expected challenge and made a game out of it.
In one game the local team withstood the challenge and has one more game to play.
In the other game, the local team is wondering what happened.
Cardinal Newman actually led all the way.
A dominating first quarter gave them control in a game that they held a 17 point lead.  Five players scored for Cardinal Newman, with four in double figures and the two teams combining for 58 points in the fourth quarter.
With all of that, the biggest shot of the game might have belonged to the only player for Cardinal Newman who didn’t score in double figures.  Riordan had cut the 17 point lead down to four as the last minute of the third quarter was ticking down.  Sean Martin then took his only shot of the game, a three pointer that he buried to give Cardinal Newman a seven point lead.   Although Riordan would cut the lead to five two more times, four would be as close as they got.
Cardinal Newman had started the game as hot as it was in the building on this spring like afternoon.   They hit the first four shots in the first two minutes to take an 8-0 lead.
Then they watched Kenny Love go to work.  He went five of five from the field in the first quarter, two of them three pointers.   The last one is becoming a signature play for Cardinal Newman in these playoffs.   Love took the ball as time was running down in the quarter.  You could see him measuring things and then let it fly from 40 foot that hit nothing but net.   It was the third time in the playoffs that Love had hit a shot that either beat the quarter or shot clock buzzer from at least 35 feet out.  This one gave Cardinal Newman a 19-5 and gave Love 12 first quarter points.
That is about where the lead stayed in the second quarter until a six point run gave Cardinal Newman made it 29-12 with under two minutes left in the half.   Then the game changed.  An eight point run cut the lead to nine and you had the feeling that Riordan was going to make a charge.
That they did.   Actually they made several runs and Cardinal Newman was up to every charge.
The first major charge came late in the second quarter when Martin hit the three pointer.
Riordan was within five in the fourth quarter and then it was Kyle King, who if they had such an award would be sixth man of the year, who made an impact  He scored eight of his 11 points in the first three and a half minutes of that crazy fourth quarter as Cardinal Newman regained a 56-45 lead.
In the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, the two teams combined to hit all eight of its field goals and scored a combined 18 points.
Then it was a scenario that has done them so well all season led by NBL Player of the Year Corey Hammel.   Well one play wasn’t part of a typical scenario when Hammel grabbed an offensive rebound, one of his game high 12 on the day, and got his first slam dunk of the season.  That gave Cardinal Newman a 59-51 lead with three and a half left.
The rest of the stretch was more typical for Hammel, as he had the ball when Riordan was forced to foul and he delivered hitting five of six from the free throw line.   The free throw streak ended a fourth quarter in which he scored 13 of his 20 points.
Love ended up with a game high 26, 17 of those in the first half.   The other player to score in double figures for Cardinal Newman was Tim McCullough who had 11 points.
CN NC ChampsThis is now officially a historic year for Cardinal Newman.   The win gives them a 33-3 record which breaks the school record for the most wins in a season.   They have also earned the fourth Nor Cal Championship in school history.
They now have a chance to make big time school history by claiming a state championship for the first time.
Cardinal Newman will meet South Champion Pacific Hills for the Division 4 State Championship next Saturday at noon.  The game will be played at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento which is the home of the Sacramento Kings.
Pacific Hills, a team from Los Angeles, was the No. 5 seed in the south bracket and defeated No. 6 Bishop Montgomery 73-69 in the South Championship Game.    Pacific Hills is 28-4 on the season and beat a Bishop Montgomery team that ended 32-2.
This may seem like a long time ago but remember the NCS game in which Montgomery took a 16-0 lead after first quarter,  lost the lead, trailed by seven with two minutes to go and pulled out a 56-54 win.   That game was on February 22nd and was against College Park.
Despite losing that game, College Park made the Nor Cal Playoffs as a No. 11 seed.
They are still playing.
College Park won four straight games on the road to advance to the Division 2 state championship game.    They went overtime to defeat Dublin 93-90 in the Nor Cal championship.    Three of the four wins in the Nor Cal bracket were by three points, the other one  by eight.
College Park, who is 27-5, is one of six North Coast Section teams that are playing for a state championship (including Cardinal Newman).   That is split right down the middle with three boys and three girls.
College Park as the No. 11, isn’t the highest seed to make the State Championship game.   That honor belongs to the Berkeley Girls who for only the sixth time since 1989 failed to win a North Coast Section Championship.   They got into the Division 1 bracket as a No. 12 seed and also won four games on the road to qualify for the state championship game.
There was probably a sleepless Saturday Night for some of the SRJC Women’s basketball team.
An 11-0 run gave them control in the first half and they had a twelve point lead with fifteen minutes left.   Then the wheels fell off.  That plus a dominating performance by Mt. San Jacinto’s Tina Fantroy, resulted in a shocking conclusion to the Bear Cubs’ season.
Everything looked so promising with 15 minutes left when the Bear Cubs held a 41-29 lead.    But a 16-5 run in the next five minutes cut the lead to 46-45 and although SRJC did stop the bleeding, they couldn’t regain control.
They had retaken a 51-45 lead with eight minutes left, but an 8-1 run gave Mt. San Jacinto its first lead since early in the first half.   After a couple a lead changes, Mt. San Jacinto took the lead for good with 2:47 left.
The last lead change was on a basket by Tina Fantroy, who was the offense for Mt. San Jacinto in the second half, scoring 23 of her game high 30 points.  She came into the game averaging 22 a game.
They would extend the lead to 61-56 as the game entered the last minute.  A basket by Whitney Edens cut the lead to three.   Then SRJC Stephanie Sack made a steal and looked like to have a breakaway layup.    But some late defensive pressure forced her to change her shot which she missed.   Mt. San Jacinto got the rebound, which forced SRJC to foul.  The two free throws put the game away.
It looked like a typical SRJC game until the last ten minutes.   Whitney Edens led a balanced attack with 12 points, the only player in double figures.    Arianna Hanson and Anandi Jiminez each scored eight points and combined for 17 rebounds.
The stat that stands out for the tough loss was three point shooting.  SRJC, who shot 25 percent on the season from three point range, was only 2 of 19 in this game.   Not that Mt. San Jacinto was much better going 4 of 17.
So it will take a while for the disappointment to go away, but sometime soon they will realize what a season they had in which they finished 24-7 and won a Big 8 championship.
But it is only human that the thought of what could have been will linger.
Mt. San Jacinto (30-2) will meet Mt. San Antonio for the State  Women Championship today at 3:30.   Mt. San Antonio is 33-0 on the season.
Before that the Men Championship game between Mt. San Antonio and Chaffey begins at 1 pm.   Chaffey handed San Francisco its first loss of the season in the semi-finals with an 87-85 win.
It is the fourth time in State Playoff history that all four teams in the championship games are from the South.
Mt. San Antonio Women is looking for its sixth state championship in ten years.   That school is also trying to become the first to win both the Men and Women championship.
My email address is jacpasquini@comcast.net